Jacques Cortelyou

Jacques Cortelyou

Jacques Cortelyou (ca 1625 - 1693) was an influential early citizen of New Amsterdam (later New York City) who was Surveyor General of the early Dutch colony. Cortelyou's main accomplishment was the so-called Cortelyou Survey, the first map of New York City, commonly called the Castello Plan after the location in an Tuscan palace where it was rediscovered centuries later.

Cortelyou arrived in Nieuw Amsterdam from Utrecht, Holland, where he had been born to French Huguenot parents. Cortelyou had studied mathematics and land-surveying, and served first in Nieuw Amsterdam as tutor to the children of Cornelis van Werckhoven, to whom the Dutch West India Company had granted a tract of land called New Utrecht. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=_cgBAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA57&lpg=PA57&dq=%22jacques+cortelyou%22&source=web&ots=IahFhYHAQD&sig=EasejxDczYQWhgqudmyh7idYrKY&hl=en Journal of Jasper Danckaerts, 1679-1680, edited by Bartlett Burleigh James, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1913] ] Cortelyou was subsequently appointed Surveyor General of the province of Nieuw Netherlands, and in 1660 made his famous map of Nieuw Amsterdam. Cortelyou also founded two subsequent settlements himself, New Utrecht on Long Island, and in 1660 Bergen in New Jersey, the first town within the present borders of the state of New Jersey.

The town of Bergen was located on the bluff "on the west side of the North River in Pavonia," the present location of Bayonne, Jersey City, Hoboken and Weehawken. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=pe4TAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA214&lpg=PA214&dq=%22hans+hansen+bergen%22+&source=web&ots=2nJpLClcnw&sig=OjEmKqiX8gpgWLAsv2BAMVrwu3Q&hl=en#PPA420,M1 History of the City of New York in the Seventeenth Century, Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer, Vol. I, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1909] ] Cortelyou and his associates had a financial interest in the outcome of the new settlement: they had purchased some "12,000 morgens at Aquackanonk on the Passaic, purchased by himself and associates of the Indians." [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=gi2OJypMncAC&pg=PA41&lpg=PA41&dq=%22hans+hansen+bergen%22+&source=web&ots=8V3E4KIw6R&sig=H-YKKrW-01RBGApKWPQ06ab3qSw&hl=en#PPA75,M1 Register in Alphabetical Order, of the Early Settlers of Kings County, Long Island, Teunis G. Bergen, S.W. Green's Son, New York, 1881] ] There is some debate about the origin of the Bergen name, which happens to be the name of one of the earliest settlers of New Amsterdam. [Hans Hansen Bergen was a ship carpenter from Bergen, Norway, from whence he apparently derived his surname, who arrived in New Amsterdam in 1633. In 1639 he married Sarah Rapalje, the first child of European parentage born in the colony of New Netherlands. Originally settled in New Amsterdam on the site of today's Pearl Street, the Rapaljes later removed to Brooklyn. Joris Jansen Rapalje, Sarah's father, served in 1641 as one of the Council of twelve men, a group chosen to represent Manhattan, Brooklyn and Pavonia in attempting to punish the Native Americans for a murder they were alleged to have committed. For four years, Rapaje, the father-in-law of Hans Hansen Bergen, served as a magistrate for Brooklyn, where Cortelyou was based.] (The Bergen and Cortelyou families subsequently intermarried several times, indicating some degree of familiarity.) [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=pFQOAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA385&lpg=PA385&dq=%22peter+cortelyou%22+bergen&source=web&ots=msc9UtOdGe&sig=gj_NgcJgktLCpKpUgsKZrVRCNsw&hl=en Collections of the New York Historical Society for the Year 1896, George Folsom, Printed for the Society, New York, 1896] ] In any case, the year 1660 was the first time the word "Bergen" was used to describe the new settlement. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=NgQMAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=%22the+holland+society%22+cortelyou&source=web&ots=wklekI2q0j&sig=A_aMhbdwdU7wgCN6CE1EBq3_7R8&hl=en Year Book of the Holland Society of New York, Prepared by the Recording Secretary, 1915] ] Sadly, the original map of the Bergen settlement by Cortelyou, as well as the list of patentees, have been lost to history.

Cortelyou was active in Nieuw Amsterdam and later in New York. He was a real estate speculator, and served in many public offices. [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=jFAOAAAAIAAJ&pg=RA2-PA335&lpg=RA2-PA335&dq=%22jacques+cortelyou%22&source=web&ots=Fjle-_obNj&sig=lp6wERSB341wpNK0ylPbHB0ImW8&hl=en#PPA10,M1 Calendar of Council Minutes 1668-1783, Berthold Fernow, University of the State of New York, 1902] ] As the Surveyor General of the city, Cortelyou worked under Governor Peter Stuyvesant. His most well-known accomplishment was his map of early lower Manhattan, executed in 1660, and known as the Castello Plan. Cortelyou was also instrumental in helping to erect the wall, originally fortified against attacks by Native Americans, from which Wall Street derives its name.

Cortelyou's early plan of New York City was known as the Castello Plan because it was later rediscovered at the Villa di Castello near Florence, Italy, in 1900. The map had been bound within an atlas that was sold to a member of the Medici family.


Further reading

* "The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America," Russell Shorto, Doubleday, New York, 2004


*The architect Philip Johnson counted Jacques Cortelyou among his ancestors [http://books.google.com/books?id=tAe2qWReLhAC&pg=PA11&lpg=PA11&dq=%22jacques+cortelyou%22&source=web&ots=uBNF4O4jZn&sig=N-eV5RiknLlbhbsWbrfdhKrUgKM&hl=en Philip Johnson: life and work, Franz Shulze, University of Chicago Press, 1996]
*Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn is named for this early surveyor [http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/05/realestate/05sqft.html?pagewanted=print&position= New York Times, June 5, 2005]
*Cortelyou Road (BMT Brighton Line), derives its name from Jacques Cortelyou
*Lawrence Van Voorhees Cortelyou, a descendant of Jacques the surveyor, was a member of the Holland Society [http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9904E5DC123DE433A25750C1A9679C94649ED7CF Names of Early Comers, The New York Times, January 13, 1895]

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